Daddy Honk Honk!, illustrated and written by Rosalinde Bonnet, published by Dial Books for Young Readers, ISBN: 978-0399186769.
If My Love Were a Fire Truck: A Daddy’s Love Song, illustrated by Jeff Mack, written by Luke Reynolds, published by Doubleday Books for Young Readers, ISBN: 978-1101937402.
I’m Awake!, illustrated and written by Maxwell Eaton III, published by Knopf, ISBN: 978-0375845758.
There recently have been a lot of great books about dads. This fun trio approaches fatherhood in wildly different ways, showing us the cosmic highs and comic lows of being a pop. All three work wonders in a preschool storytime, earning laughs and oohs, and giving young ones a feeling of warmth.
Even in Maxwell Eaton III’s chaotic and hilarious I’m Awake! which shows a clueless hamster toddler making his sleepy old man’s morning, uh, eventful, you get the feeling that dad cannot help but love his over-enthusiastic offspring despite the rude awakening. I’m Awake!, with its bright pen and ink (with digital coloring) illustrations and zesty cartoon bubbles, comes bounding at the reader the way the little hamster comes bounding up the stairs at the story’s start. Even before we get to the title page, the wee one is in motion–and the enthusiasm is catchy. You relate to both parent and child: the need for sleep, the need to play. Eaton shows masterful comic timing here–just look at the father’s facial expressions when the pup says it tried to make pancakes–he goes from shock to relief but back to wide-eyed shock again when told “we’re out of paper towels.” And in a great page turn we see the mess the child has left in the kitchen. And it only gets funnier from there.
Daddy Honk Honk! gives us another father figure thrown into a stressful parenting situation. Rosalinde Bonnet’s India Ink and watercolor illustrations (finalized in Photoshop) whisk us away to the tundra at the end of the summer. A little fox named Aput watches some geese say goodbye, leaving behind an egg. A wildly effective double page spread shows a blue gosling bursting out an egg, immediately mistaking Aput for its father, its first words–“daddy honk honk!”. Kids will love shouting these words in unison with the little one. Aput, who strikes me as a hipster bachelor, cannot get rid of the little guy, trying in vain to pass him off to other animals such as an overcrowded lemmings family and a meditating polar bear. Although the drawings amuse, there is something beautiful about Bonnet’s art here. The muted colors of the backgrounds, the gentleness of the animal characters’ expressions. Of course it all leads to a peaceful and satisfying resolution that brings a tear to the eye. Aput accepts his role as adoptive father, and all is beautiful under the northern lights.
As I mentioned in a previous post, one that celebrated Jeff Mack’s gloriously subversive Mine!, I’m a Jeff Mack fanboy. If My Love Were a Fire Truck: A Daddy’s Love Song finds Mack in a more gentle territory. I’m not always wild about parental adoration books that have lines like “I love you more than this or that” but I dig the scenarios author Luke Reynolds comes up with in this tender bedtime offering; it’s a child-friendly work, not just something to soothe adults. Throughout a father compares the love he feels for his son to fire trucks, race cars, marching bands (my favorite spread), and great blue whales, among other things. The language is vibrant. And Mack’s artwork delivers on making each scene jump off the page (just look at that roaring dragon’s flame, those awesome fireworks). Mack captures the pure joy of this parent-child bond; each turn of the page gives the reader delight.